Girls' Sweet 16: Iroquois beats Montgomery

BOWLING GREEN — Iroquois didn't do anything fancy.

It rarely does.

It just did what it does and found its way into the state semifinals Friday with a 46-37 win over Montgomery County.

Montgomery County took the lead to open the fourth quarter, but then the Raiders used a 13-2 run to close out the game and make the trip back to the semis.

When asked the secret of that run, Coach Al Northingon shrugged.

"It was just heart and determination," he said. "We talked about playing with a sense of purpose."

That purpose now is to advance to the Houchens Industries Sweet Sixteen championship game on Saturday night and then go one step further.

"We want the state championship bad for Iroquois, and we want the seniors to win that last game," Northington said.

That opportunity looked less probable in the opening seconds of the game in Diddle Arena Friday afternoon. Starting guard Stafonia Taylor went up for a block and came down with an ankle injury.

She missed the rest of the game and is likely to miss the rest of the tournament, Northington said in post-game interviews.

Iroquois got its points from a usual star in University of Kentucky signee Adia Mathies, who had 14 points, six rebounds and six assists.

But two improbable players filled Taylor's big shoes. Carmen Talbott, who was averaging 4.7 points a game, scored 10 points in the first half. Meka Birdsong, who was averaging 4.1 points off the bench, finished with 12.

"I knew somebody off the bench was going to have to step up," Talbott said. "I had to knock those shots down and take over like Stafonia would have done."

Their contributions were not something the Indians were counting on. Iroquois' bench outscored its Montgomery counterparts 22-4.

"They scored 22 bench points, and our goal was to make those kids score and, to their credit, they did," Montgomery Coach Janie Robinson said. "They did step up."

Iroquois led by as many as nine points early, 13-4, but the Lady Indians came charging back in the second half.

That surge didn't surprise Robinson. She's been watching this group do that all season long.

"They never gave up, and that's what they've done all season," Robinson said. "We've overachieved because we're not the best athletes by far against anybody. We've overachieved all year just because they play so well together, and they play so hard."

Montgomery's seniors ended their careers at the state tournament, where they played five consecutive times. Seniors Mackenzie Lee and Kayla Webb had 11 points apiece for the Indians.

But late in the fourth quarter, it became Iroquois' game to lose. The Raiders have now won 16 in a row.

Montgomery County made them earn it, though.

"We dug down deep and pulled out the win," Mathies said.